Sunday, November 11, 2012

“So They Gave Me A Tin Hat And They Gave Me A Gun …”




In honor of Veterans Day, the Pogues’ “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.” I’m not sure there’s an apter song that’s ever been written for a day like today:
When I was a young man I carried my pack

And I lived the free life of a rover

From the Murrays green basin to the dusty outback

I waltzed my Matilda all over

Then in nineteen fifteen my country said Son

It’s time to stop rambling ’cause there’s work to be done

So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun

And they sent me away to the war

And the band played Waltzing Matilda

As we sailed away from the quay

And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers

We sailed off to Gallipoli
How well I remember that terrible day

How the blood stained the sand and the water

And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay

We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter

Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well

He chased us with bullets, he rained us with shells

And in five minutes flat he’d blown us all to hell

Nearly blew us right back to Australia

But the band played Waltzing Matilda

As we stopped to bury our slain

We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs

Then we started all over again
Now those that were left, well we tried to survive

In a mad world of blood, death and fire

And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive

But around me the corpses piled higher

Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over tit

And when I woke up in my hospital bed

And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead

Never knew there were worse things than dying

For no more I’ll go waltzing Matilda

All around the green bush far and near

For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs

No more waltzing Matilda for me
So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed

And they shipped us back home to Australia

The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane

Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla

And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay

I looked at the place where my legs used to be

And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me

To grieve and to mourn and to pity

And the band played Waltzing Matilda

As they carried us down the gangway

But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared

Then turned all their faces away
And now every April I sit on my porch

And I watch the parade pass before me

And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march

Reliving old dreams of past glory

And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore

The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war

And the young people ask, “What are they marching for?”

And I ask myself the same question

And the band plays Waltzing Matilda

And the old men answer to the call

But year after year their numbers get fewer

Some day no one will march there at all
Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda

Who’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me

And their ghosts may be heard as you pass the Billabong

Who’ll come-a-waltzing Matilda with me?

3 comments:

  1. A friend's daughter, an Iraq vet, chose not to attend the Veterans Day event at our elementary school. She said, "That's all just about convincing those kids it's all right to go to war. And it's not."

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  2. For another song you might appreciate on this day, Phil Ochs' "I Ain't Marchin' Any More."

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  3. I like Eric Bogle's original (which I'm sure you've heard before) better. It's more plaintive than the Pogues. (At least they didn't Pogue out on this one like they usually do.) Believe it or don't, this song was part of why I became an Aussie-phile, and eventually moved down there. It just made the Aussies seem like such plucky yet poignant people. These Canadians, they just don't do it for me like the Australians did.

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